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Related Verses: 2 Kings 13:23; Ex 2:23-25; Luke 7:11-16; 1 John 3:17; John 11:35; Rom 12:15; 2 Cor 1:3,4

The lesson this week invites us to think and talk about sympathy particularly in light of what we may learn from Jesus about sympathy.

There are two foundational texts to this lesson one of which is the shortest verse in all the Bible:

  • Matthew 14:14 – “And when Jesus went out he saw the great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for the, and healed their sick.” (NKJV)
  • John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.”

These two passages are enough to engage with the subject of sympathy. They indicate that Jesus was moved with compassion by the difficulties and sufferings of those with whom he came in contact.

  • The word “sympathy” means “with pathos.” In other words, it means to be with someone or alongside someone while in a sympathetic frame of mind. It implies mingling with them in their sorrow or difficulty in a way that shares their pain with them.
  • Make a list of ways in which sympathy can be generated and shown.

We could very quickly catch a glimpse of what would be involved with showing sympathy when we pause long enough to make a list of the woes of earth!

  • What kind of list could you make, given even a few minutes, of all the struggle, pain, and woes known to you?
  • Expand your personal knowledge to what you would imagine to be the case if you had the perspective of a person who could see the whole of our planet and all its goings-on.
  • The cause of all the struggles of earth are rooted in the tragic story of the loss of innocence of our first parents, a day when sin came to stay, something no-one living today had anything to do with yet it affects life nonetheless.

One of the most common reactions we have to all the trouble we see is to gloss it over or distract ourselves for nobody could face up to the whole scene alone. This kind of thing can tend toward inaction, something we would probably agree is improper for Christians. At the same time, getting involved can be very challenging:

  • It is said of General William Booth, founding father of the Salvation Army, that when a person came along who was interested in helping with what he was doing, he would respond by telling them, “If you can’t cry over the city, we can’t use you.”
  • Does the fact that most of us pay taxes some of which get used in relief work absolve us of at least some responsibility for caring for the downtrodden?
  • What do you think about “secular” agencies that work for the betterment of struggling humans?
  • Do you think every denomination should have its own relief work, or do you think this might be a place where there could be a lot of collaboration by Christians?
  • It is a common thing for “activists” today to demonstrate and create pressures of various kinds in order “to raise awareness” of something. Does that kind of thing actually help those in need or is it an easy way out of providing real help to those in need.
  • When last did you inconvenience yourself to help someone?
  • What can you do when tragedy strikes to the point words are inadequate to salve the pain and sorrow?
    How do you like it when people way, “I’ll pray for you.” Is that a sincere response or is merely a platitude most of the time? What could you do that had more significance than such words?
  • What can you do within the sphere of your own living to become known as a sympathetic person?
  • What actions can a church or congregation take in order to manifest sympathy in this broken world?
  • Tell some stories of sympathies given and also of some received. Why do you remember the details of such stories?

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